KABUL — Afghanistan will delay payment of salaries to hundreds of thousands of civil servants next month because it does not have enough money, a finance ministry official said Saturday.
The acknowledgment of the shortfall highlights the huge challenges facing new leader Ashraf Ghani, who is to be sworn in as president of the violence-torn country Monday after months of turmoil following a disputed election result.
The October shortfall will affect only civilian government workers — Afghan military and police salaries should be paid on time because that money is taken from a separate fund, the official added.
Security remains a priority in Afghanistan as government forces continue to battle the Taliban.
On Saturday, Afghan villagers hanged four captured Taliban militants from a tree as security forces battled the insurgents for a sixth day in a district of Ghazni province, an official said. The hangings were carried out after Taliban fighters killed more than 100 people in the area in the past week, including more than a dozen who were beheaded, said Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor of Ghazni.
Alongside the fight against Taliban insurgents, Afghanistan’s fiscal crisis is the most immediate problem facing Ghani and coalition partner Abdullah Abdullah. The two agreed to a unity government last week, breaking the election deadlock.
Afghanistan’s treasury holds less than the 6.5 billion afghanis ($116 million) needed to begin processing monthly salaries, said Alhaj Mohammad Aqa, the treasury director general. He would not say how much money the government has in its coffers, only that it is not enough to meet the payroll.
“Right now, we don’t have that much,” Aqa said.
It will be the first time in recent years that the government has had to delay payment of salaries because of a lack of funds, Aqa said, although he acknowledged that civil servants are often paid late because of poor administration.
Foreign donors already fund more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s budget . Afghanistan has asked for $537 million in emergency funds from the United States to meet its budget commitments through December but has not received approval, Aqa said.
The Afghan government has long struggled to raise revenue through taxes and customs duties in a country with rampant corruption. Uncertainty surrounding the departure of foreign troops at the end of the year, plus the election turmoil of recent months, has sent revenue collections plummeting.
The announcement of the cash-flow problems came on the day four U.S. governors were in the country.
Andrew M. Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.), Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) and Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) were part of a delegation in Afghanistan to receive counterterrorism briefings and greet troops. They traveled with officials from the Defense Department, which sponsored the trip, Cuomo’s office said. Because of security concerns, the trip was not disclosed publicly in advance.